March 29, 2007 1:48:39 am
Iran may be facing international isolation — the UK froze its ties today over the detention of its sailors — but India is backing its request for entry into the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) bloc as an observer.
With India’s backing and mot much resistance expected from other member states, it’s likely that Iran will get this status.
Iran’s request for the observer status will be discussed at the SAARC foreign ministers meeting prior to the April 3-4 summit in New Delhi. India will chair the summit and the proposal is to be discussed by the “council of ministers.” On Iran’s request, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said: “We like the idea of more involvement.”
Sources said that even Pakistan, which is learnt to have some reservations about giving observer status to Iran, is unlikely to oppose the request. The USA, along with the European Union, China, South Korea and Japan are attending the SAARC summit as observers.
Iran’s formal request was handed over to the secretary-general of SAARC by the director-general for West Asia Affairs of the Iran Foreign Ministry in the first week of March. Iran feels that being part of the bloc will be beneficial to both itself and SAARC because of Iran’s geographical position and economic strength. Iran also pointed out that it has close relations with SAARC countries.
Meanwhile, in the context of the escalated violence in the country, Sri Lanka has made a request for a special discussion on the issue of terrorism. Calling the recent LTTE air strike as “part of a pattern,” Menon said India was concerned about the escalation of violence in Sri Lanka and its “humanitarian consequence.”
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